Duty to Report Child Abuse
Recent events have caused me to reflect on our continuous duty to educate the public about our shared responsibility to protect children by reporting suspected child abuse and neglect to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, and also to assure our communities that we are prepared and trained to respond to these reports in a timely and professional manner.
In New Jersey we are fortunate to have an established commitment to a multi-disciplinary approach to child abuse investigations, particularly sexual abuse. Our DYFS staff and investigators from county and local law enforcement agencies are trained in forensic interviewing techniques aimed at reducing trauma to victims and family members, while assuring evidentiary standards are upheld. We are also fortunate to have a network of child advocacy centers across the state which provide a safe and child friendly environment for interviews with children and family members to occur. And, unlike most states, we have four regional diagnostic and treatment centers whole sole mission is assessment and treatment of child abuse and neglect. These centers are hospital based and assure that our children are provided with expert medical and clinical treatment. And we have many, many more professionals, trained in trauma, and therapeutic interventions, prepared to provide treatment for these children.
However, a report must be made to the child abuse hotline before this system can intervene and provide the services we have developed to serve and protect our state’s children and families. In New Jersey the law requires all citizens to report suspected child abuse or neglect immediately to DYFS – it is not the responsibility of institutions or private citizens to screen information to determine its veracity before making the report. Making that determination is the responsibility of the trained professionals charged with protecting our states most vulnerable.
The next time you discuss current events with your family members or neighbors, remind them how important that phone call to the child abuse hotline can be.
To report suspected child abuse and neglect in New Jersey call 1-877 NJ ABUSE (1-877-652-2873).
NJ Department of Children and Families